“I knew I was going to die,” Bombing survivor speaks about transformation after 25 years

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing is just days away.

For many, that quarter-century has passed in the blink of an eye.

For others, the time-lapse between today and April 19, 1995, has been a slow, painful journey.

This week, we are sharing stories of victims, rescuers and survivors.

Amy Downs has had a remarkable transformation since April 19, 1995.

From college dropout to CEO, Downs says the destruction of the bombing opened the door to a new beginning.

Downs was a credit card loan officer at the federal employees credit union on the third floor of the federal building.

“I remember standing in the teller line and talking to my friend Christy (Rosas). I was showing her pictures of my new house,” Downs remembers.

Downs was back at her desk at 9:02 a.m. when the bomb went off.

“I remember feeling this powerful rushing sensation like I was falling,” Downs said. “I knew I was going to die. I thought, this is it.”

Oklahoma City firefighter Allen Hill found Downs in the rubble pile near the basement.

She had fallen three floors and landed upside down just outside the area they called “the pit.”

“I thought, I’m 28 years old. I’m getting ready to die, and I’ve never really lived.”

Downs was buried alive.

She prayed, she begged and she bargained for another chance.

“I had flunked out of college. I had gained 200 pounds. I had finally gotten a promotion from being a teller to being a clerk with a desk job,” Downs remembers. “What became really clear in that moment is this: You’ve really wasted what was given to you. I had deep regrets about that.”

Rescuers thought they might have to amputate her leg.

They worked more than six hours in the dark and the dust cutting through concrete to remove her body in tact.

“When they counted to three and finally pulled me out, every nerve in my body came alive. I remember feeling immense pain, and I remember looking around for the first time. I remember thinking, why am I on the first floor. It looked like a war zone. It truly did.”

Downs was the last of her credit union coworkers to be brought out alive.

“I do remember looking up at the sky and taking that first breath of fresh air, and I promised God, I will never live my life the same.”

There were only 10 survivors from the credit union. Rescuers searched for the missing for days.

The federal employees credit union lost more than half the staff, 18 of their 33 employees.

The survivors went back to work with heavy hearts as soon as they were able.

Downs has spent the past quarter century making good on promises made to the God who delivered her from the bottom of that rubble pile.

Four years after the bombing, she became a mom.

She went back to school for her Bachelor’s degree, and then a master’s.

She lost 200 pounds.

She found love after divorce.

She became an Ironman, and now leads the credit union, which is called Allegiance Credit Union now.

Two and a half decades after her own rescue, Downs still feels like she is living on gifted time.

She chooses to live on purpose because 168 others didn’t get the chance. 

“It’s up to you on how you choose to respond to the bad thing that’s happening to you,” Downs said. “So I chose to respond as positive as I could, and so that made a difference. I do have a good story.”

Her new book was released in this milestone year.

It is a blueprint in survival; a profile in transformation after tragedy, titled with a lesson she learned in those dark years of recovery after the smoke cleared.

Hope is a verb, an action one can use to change their heart, change their circumstances and change their life.

Amy Downs is living proof.

To learn more about her story and about her newly released book and motivational speaking engagements.

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